In our interview with Bridget McDonnell, '13, Bridget discusses the rewards and challenges of her current teaching job and describes how NU’s education program prepared her for success.
College of Education: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Bridget. We heard that you are currently working as an elementary school teacher.
Bridget McDonnell: That’s right! I work at St. Mark School in Buffalo, N.Y.
COE: What grade level do you teach?
BM: This is my first year teaching fifth grade but I spent two years teaching third grade as well.
COE: What degree did you receive from NU and when did you graduate?
BM: I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in special education and childhood (Grades 1-6) in May 2013.
COE: How did NU prepare you for the job search?
BM: Niagara made me feel very confident during the job search. In seminar, we learned a lot about writing resumes, standing out during interviews, and crafting portfolios. I also was able to make some great connections through student teaching and at Niagara itself.
COE: How did NU prepare you for success as an elementary teacher?
BM: The coursework and field experience opportunities at Niagara prepared me for success because they provided me with the foundation I needed to become a good teacher. Niagara places you in the classroom setting even in your first semester, so I had the opportunity to work with a variety of teachers over my four years as an undergraduate. I was able to observe and learn so much from so many different people, and then I applied these skills in my own classroom.
COE: What is your favorite part of working with your students?
BM: My favorite part of teaching is my students themselves. They have such great personalities and I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. They are great people!
COE: What are some of the challenges you face as a teacher?
BM: The biggest challenge I face as a teacher is reaching every student. Students have such diverse needs and you really need to tailor your teaching for each individual student. What works for one student may not work for another. Differentiating instruction to meet student needs takes a lot of time and effort, so some days I wish I had four more hours added to the day! But, the work is absolutely worth it when it helps students reach their potential.
COE: What advice can you give to current students pursuing a degree in special education?
BM: Take in as much as you can! And, keep track of what you learn. Make a notebook of ideas you want to incorporate in your classroom. It will come in handy. And remember to get to know your students. The more you know someone, the better you know how to teach them. And it means a lot to them that you care.
Thank you for your time, Bridget, and good luck as you pursue a master's degree in special education (grades 7-12) at Niagara!